'This debate is not simply about an epidemic' - Macleans.ca

‘This debate is not simply about an epidemic’

Aaron Wherry on the late-night H1N1 debate on the Hill


If nothing else, evening debates do provide an excuse to walk up Parliament Hill with the Peace Tower all lit up and looking particularly magisterial. The impact of the Centennial Flame at the bottom of the hill is also tenfold when everything else is dark.

Anyway. I watched the first half hour and a half of debate and did not once hear an unrelated human tragedy invoked for the sake of easy comparison. That too was redeeming. I return home several hours later to see the discussion is still going, a Conservative backbencher still dutifully raising the same tangential point he was pursuing four hours ago, Niki Ashton still carrying the NDP cause with youthful idealism and Liberal Larry Bagnell looking suitably dishevelled.

A link to the full debate in the morning once Hansard is up (Note: that link is now here). For now, below are the remarks of Michael Ignatieff, who spoke second for the Liberals. An overview of the early remarks from the CBC is here.

M. Michael Ignatieff (chef de l’opposition, Lib.): Madame la Présidente, je veux remercier le Président d’avoir permis ce débat car cela reflète l’urgence nationale de la question et je veux remercier ma collègue, la députée de St. Paul’s, pour son travail remarquable sur ces questions.

This debate is not simply about an epidemic, it is a debate about the proper role and function of government. The role of government is to prepare citizens, to lead citizens and to inform them. In all three dimensions, the government has failed in its duties.

If I begin just with the failure to prepare. La grippe H1N1 est apparue pour la première fois le 23 avril au Mexique. Le 27 avril, dans cette Chambre, j’ai posé la première question, à savoir où était le plan du gouvernement pour faire face à ce défi. Aucun plan depuis.

Les conservateurs ont attendu avant de commander les vaccins. Les États-Unis ont commandé les vaccins le 25 mai. La France les commandé le 16 juillet. Les conservateurs, le gouvernement, a attendu jusqu’au 6 août pour commander le vaccin. Ce retard est crucial. C’est un manque de leadership. C’est un manque de préparation flagrant. Trente-cinq pays ont commandé leurs vaccins avant le Canada.

Conservatives began and vaccination later than other countries. China, Australia, the United States, Sweden, Japan, the United Kingdom, all began vaccinations before our country. Canada did not begin vaccinations until October 26. The U.S. began administering the vaccine on October 5, before Canadian trials had even begun.

Two weeks ago, the Minister of Health said the vaccine would be available to all Canadians in early November, and now she says it will not be available until Christmas. We have discovered that there is not an adequate supply for next week.

The Conservatives did not order non-adjuvanted vaccine for pregnant women until it was too late, and they provided extremely confusing advice at all times.

This failure to properly inform the public has become a source of enormous anxiety to Canadian families. They do not know what public information to believe. This is producing anguish in families that is the direct responsibility of the government.

J’ai déjà parlé d’un manque de préparation, mais il y avait aussi un manque de leadership. Les provinces et les territoires ont demandé des ressources additionnelles au gouvernement fédéral; 400 millions de dollars étaient alloués dans le budget de 2006, cela veut dire 80 millions de dollars par année pour aider les provinces et les municipalités à affronter ce défi. Jusqu’à ce moment, pas de réponse du gouvernement, pas de concertation.

Je veux donner enfin un simple principe: les épidémies s’en fichent des juridictions. Elles s’en fichent des territoires. Municipales, provinciales, fédérale, les juridictions doivent travailler en consultation, en concertation et c’est le rôle du fédéral d’élaborer un plan national afin que toutes les autorités soient mises en relation entre elles. C’est cela qui manque dans la démarche du gouvernement.

Instead of taking responsibility, the government blames everybody else. It blames the drug company because there is not enough supply for next week. It blames the provinces and territories. “We do not deliver health care”, it says.

We understand that, but the role of a national government is to provide the planning framework in which everybody does their job, because as I said in another language epidemics do not care about jurisdictions. What the national government is there to do is bring people together. The government has failed to do that consistently since the beginning of the crisis.

The question now is when will the government own up and take responsibility? When will the Prime Minister begin to exercise the leadership that is his responsibility here? Why does he refuse to lead? Why does the entire government shift responsibility to the drug companies, to the provinces, to the municipalities, anybody it can instead of standing up and doing what the Government of Canada ought to be doing?

Finally, the failure to inform, the failure to prepare, the failure to lead, the failure to inform. This is a government that has spent something like 10 times more on its own publicity, publicizing its own highly-partisan infrastructure program than it spent on public health information.

This is the most astonishing failure of all of the government’s failures. Clean, clear public information that everybody can understand is the right of every Canadian citizen. We could have avoided the anguish in all the Canadian households had the government done its job. It failed to do so.

Ultimately this is not just about an epidemic, this is about the proper role of government in our society, the proper role of a federal government. The government has failed to its job, and that is why we are having this debate tonight.


‘This debate is not simply about an epidemic’

  1. Why not put up the minister's remarks just to pretend there is balance, just once?

    • As if…

    • personally I have not believed one thing out of his ( PMs) mouth after he returned from suspending parliament so he could save his hide. can put it here but why waste the space on obvious fallacy?
      guess the writer just decided to simplify and produce fact and save us from fiction.. JMO
      Chas @}-

    • Because this was a prepared speach and was handed out to the media, perhaps? Or do you think Aaron is that good and fast a typist, in English and French?

      Another example of how to "be prepared".

      And besides, he said he was going to put the whole thing up as soon as it becomes available.

  2. Iggy is such a pantywaist. What a pile of dung that speech is.

    • And yet, under the circumstances, that pile of dung is probably the best that he can offer here.

      Pandemics don't care about jurisdictions. True. But if a government response decides to ignore jurisdictions, imagine how much worse everything would be right about now.

      But then, such imagination would require thought. The current opposition braying requires suspension of same.

      • amen O :)
        i am amazed at how much responsbility and critique is put on the opposition party and not on our own governing party.
        the oppostion can only do so much and as long as PM is buying alliances with desperate parties how does i expect the opposition to do anything but complain? FYI the libs are not in power the cons are.
        about time we held them to account and not blame a weak opposition.

        Chas @}-

        • Pantywaist – what a 50's term and childish. Too many hormones there guy? Yup, a pantywaist who spent many years as a war correspondant in war torn regions……….sigh.

      • The point is about the government doing its _job_ within its jurisdiction, and its ignorance thereof.

        • If only the opposition might choose to address any issues, there.

          • If you were the opposition, how would you address this? What are the issues?

          • Well, that's what has me puzzled. Why call for this extra debate when you've got nothing useful to add?

          • What else is there to add? Why should the opposition do its job of opposing the government and the government's job as well?

          • If the opposition has nothing useful to add, why did it request the additional debate?

          • "If the opposition has nothing useful to add, why did it request the additional debate?"

            You're having problems with the word "opposition" it appears.

          • Well, I suppose I hadn't considered the possibility that the Liberals really want to look like whining opportunistic fools…

          • I am not an insider, nor particularly schooled in the mechanics of governmental operations. I come here because I enjoy the posts of those on different sides of the issues; it provides an edifying "balance" not always found in mainstream news. As I read what Mr Wherry has posted, it seems that MI has raised some legitimate issues. You seem to think it's a pile of dung.
            I have young children and the death of the 13 year old boy carries a cache of fear. Is the fear irrational? Could be, but it is real to a lot of parents, not just me. So there is nothing to address?

          • I heard a pediatrician (I believe on CTV) say that since the tragedy of the 13-year old was so rapid, that it could not have been H1Nl that killed him. He mentioned the word 'meningitis' without trying to diagnose what happened.

          • My understanding is that the cause of death was confirmed as H1N1

          • Did he look after the kid? No – it's purely speculation which there is too much of these days.

          • Please identify those "legitimate" issues that are the federal government's issues.

            Look, a significant portion of the delivery of vaccine arrived earlier than anticipated. As soon as Ottawa was able to clear it, out it went to the provinces. Ottawa has been advising Canadians to get vaccinated as soon as possible. No one has contradicted the federal government's claim that a greater proportion of Canadians are already vaccinated than any other country in the world.

            It's clear that the provinces and local public health people have a logistical nightmare in front of them, especially if they were anticipating the polling predictions that less than half of Canadians were even going to be bothered with the shot.

            What, oh what, justifies an additional emergency debate in Ottawa? Besides partisan sniping that does sweet kiss-all at protecting a single additional Canadian?

          • Let me ask you this, do you think money would have been better spent on:

            1. an ad blitz that told everyone to get the H1N1 flu shot because it has a different target than most influenza viruses, and that it is a particularly debilitating flu?

            2. 10-percenters outlining why voters should not vote for Iggy because he's "just visiting", why the gun registry should be abolished, or how much money has been thrown into every little minutia of grants under the rubric of "your stimulus dollars at work"?

            Do you think that maybe, just maybe and in the very least, an equivalent amount of funds could have been allocated to both ad blitzes? It was already known by April that this year, H1N1 had the potential to be a pandemic. And fully 4 months later, the CPC decides that maybe they should place an order for vaccine.

            Where does this tell you the CPC's focus was?

            As far as the "early release" of vaccine, the vaccine did not go through the same regulatory channels prior to release by Health Canada. It did not go through the same testing regime that they are supposed to go through. Health Canada is not supposed engage in rubber stamp approval processes as far as I'm aware.

            So what kind of expediency by the CPC does this smack of?

            Do you still believe that debate is unwarranted?

          • Testing, one, two, three…

            Will Intense Debate act like a real web-based service today…?

          • You have an annoying manner of asking questions.

            Instead of "So what kind of expediency by the CPC does this smack of?" which has a dangling preposition and is really rhetorical because of the word "smack", you should ask "Does this smack of exepediency by the CPC?"

            Instead of "Where does this tell you the CPC's focus was?" you can say "Where was the CPC's focus?"

            Also, your initial questions have the false premise that you cannot spend enough money to satisfy two different things. Its' not like they had X dollars that had to be spent either on flu vaccines or grants.

            Not only that, an advertising blitz for the H1N1 vaccine would have been a waste of money, because it has been completely obvious that the turnout for the vaccine has exceeded all expectations. So awareness has not been an issue! The issue has been the supply, not the demand!

  3. There is no balance here. The liberals and the media will tie themselves to the corpses of dead Canadians if they think they can score some political points.

    • I don't see anyone "tying themselves to the corpses" anywhere… I do see a government that does not seem to want to be responsible, to take accountability, to share the credit when things go well or take its knocks when they don't. Most of all, I see a government that has spent so much of its energy kicking others and pumping up its own image to forget about offering Canadians simple, honest answers. Why am I not surprised that weak conbots like you want to turn it into "capitalizing on an issue" and not getting answers from the people in charge? It wasn't worthy in the listeriosis situation, and its not now.

      • amen O :)
        go to cbc if you want con love saskboys homeboy ( lol) their panel ( joke) is full of it..
        Chas @}-

      • You raise some valid points, but then you cheapen it by resorting to taunts like "weak conbots". Let's drag this out of the schoolyard and pull up a seat at the debating table – put some peace in that pipe, pass it to the Conservatives, and then logically explain why you disagree, and if you really want to slay them, offer an alternative.

  4. There is a world wide vaccine shortage. Canada has more vaccine per capita then any other nation in the world.

    Our government has done the best job of any government anywhere.

    That's all I need to know.

    • Know too Jesse, that the provinces have a lot of vaccine.
      There is no shortage!!!!
      Alberta received 700k doses, and closed their doors after 400k were administered (that's for that Don Martin)

      There is a STAFF shortage to handle fear stricken crowds.
      The provinces did not follow the Sept 16 guidelines sent to them from the feds,
      listing high risk to get first shots:

      • Passing the buck again?

        There is a shortage. How can you claim otherwise? Why are clinics shutting down? Why is the vaccine being rationed? Give your head a shake.

        There is no shortage of staff. Family doctors are screaming for the vaccine. They are there ready to dole it out and many are offering to do so anywhere.

        Passing the buck. Taking no responsibility. Blaming "panicky parents", the supplier (of which for some god-unknown reason there is only one, unlike elsewhere), the provinces, the media, the Liberal opposition. What leadership.

        • The reason there is only one supplier is because the previous Liberal government signed a 10-year contract. It also rejected a proposal for a second supplier in 2001 because the second supplier was not located in Canada.

          • TwoYen… it should be mentioned that the contract you speak of did not stipulate that there could only be 1 supplier…. it was not a sole source contract.

            The government could have decided to purpose vaccine from an alternative supplier if it wanted to (as it did when it purchased some non-adjuvanted vaccine from Austrailia before it asked GSK to begin producing it for them)

          • not to mention …

            [In] August 1993, when Congress passed Clinton's Vaccines for Children program. The plan, promoted by the Children's Defense Fund, was to use federal power to ensure universal immunization. So the government agreed to purchase a third of the national vaccine supply (the President and Mrs. Clinton had pushed for 100 percent) at a forced discount of half price, then distribute it to doctors to deliver to the poor and the un- and under-insured. As a result: Where 30 years ago, 25 companies produced vaccines for the U.S. market., today only five remain, and there is only one producer for a number of critical shots. Recent years have brought shortages of numerous vaccines, including those for whooping cough, diphtheria and chicken pox.

      keep living the dream :)
      not realizing that this governments inability to act has made us the last first world
      country to vaccinate it's citizens.
      The vaccine is too late for most; as the season is well under way and the incubation is 10 days after immunization.
      Chas @}-

  5. There is a fine line between flinging feces and flinging blood.

    Liberal party president Alfred Apps crossed that line when he suggested Monday that the H1N1 crisis is Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "hurricane Katrina".

    Among his many gems: "Now that Canadians are unnecessarily dying, we are all entitled to ask why this government thought it necessary or appropriate to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on slick partisan advertising promoting its pork-barrel infrastructure plan."

    Exploiting the blood of H1N1 victims for nakedly political purposes? I guess politics is a blood sport after all.

    • I think it's fair to ask questions about preparedness, but I quite agree this is really beyond the pale. Besides using the dead as props, the comparison to Katrina is in extremely bad taste. That really was a case of almost conscious neglect, certainly outrageous indifference to suffering, with a racist tinge to boot; whereas everybody would agree that the government neglect in this case is at worst debatable.

    • Give it a break — that was a letter for a few major strategists. Care to share the CON's latest strategy orders? Is it on H1N1 being "sexy"? How about a joke on who's dying/getting sick from the disease — from "a thousand coughs"?
      Being the government means answering questions, both pleasant and tough. It means taking action and making decisions. How quaint that a Crit prefers to keep the focus on the Liberal party — if you don't think your team is capable of providing honest, accountable and timely government, just come out and say it. Quit hiding behind this dumb dodge.

      • The feds took action, sent out a guideline to the provinces, which they did not follow.
        There is no vaccine shortage, there is a STAFF shortage, a situation made worse by panic.

        Libs clinging to bodybags for political gain is sick.
        Bennett already had to apologize to the First Nations Chief for a sick 10%er.

        LPC, the party of fear.

        • they would not have those body bags to cling on to..
          if the health minister's people did not send them out in the first place.
          i mean if you want to talk sick how sick is it to send body bags as a flu kit?
          you really have to ask yourself how ligit this post is..who is wilson and why is he so anti liberal?
          Chas @}-

          • Am I dreaming, or did I read somewhere the source of the "body bag incident" was when a local nurse mistakenly ordered 100 instead of 10, and the ministerial supplier found that odd, so only sent some in the thirties, instead. I am pretty sure I read that somewhere kind-of official. Not that it got anywhere near the level of "Harper wants the red-man dead" hysteria, of course, but there's dreaming, and then there's…

        • If it's fair to call the Liberals the party of fear, then it's fair to call the CPC the party of denial.

        • The Minister of Health has said there is a shortage and she is "disappointed" about it.

          Wilson, you are better off sticking to Conservative talking points than making stuff up entirely out of the blue.

          • Yes, I think we're ALL disappointed that the vaccine, as ahead of schedule as it is, and as on pace or ahead of the rest of the developed world as it is, still isn't 100%. It's also a shame it wasn't some sort of fail-safe Epi-Pen style self-injecting gizmo that we could all line up like at a marathon's water bottle station and shoot up ourselves. The question is whether reasonable people think Aglukkaq & Harper have therefore failed.

          • Why don't we have GPs making home deliveries of the vaccine at a convenient time for each of us?

      • more than likely …bet Riatt is just loving the whole pandemic thing…how sexxxy..
        that is if she's not looking for her briefcase at the local tv station…or throwing elction parties on our dime.
        FYI: yes I am anti con , I mean i only need 1-2 scandals not 15 to turn me off a party.
        maybe i am the minority canuck who remembers all these oops moments?
        can you name them all …I can ')
        if not check out: http://www.twitter.com/bottomofthecage
        I love that blog..
        Chas @}-

    • Peter Donolo…not in control of the party's message yet.

      App's letter was over the top, absolutely. The OLO has and still suffers from a pandemic of hyperbole. I let you decide who in that office is Patient 1.

      • Careful now, wouldn't want to suggest that the LPC President is the head of the OLO, would you?

    • What's the right option? To ask politely? If bad PR is what this government needs to get moving than so be it; paint the peace tower in crimson. But I don't see any, as you do, indication that Apps is using this situation to play political games. It just seems to me like a very graphics criticism of the Government.

      • So if Apps soaked himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze – in protest of the governments "Hurricane Katrina" – that would be a good thing too, right? Cause that would really get folks talking.

        The government has done a decent – though not flawless – job on this file. The histrionic behaviour of the opposition – all of the opposition – has served to discredit them, and only them.

        • Decent? On every front the government has been either late or inadequate and your use of the word histrionic can't change that.

          • The government has been ahead of other governents around the world, including the USA. Yes, the USA had a limited supply of inferior vaccines available earlier than Canada, but Canada is far better positioned for a mass vaccination than other countries. I think the description as "decent, not flawless" works prtty well.

          • Never mind all that, it's the timing of the order that's the real concern. Just listening to some yob on the radio insisting that the actual supply is not the issue, it's when the order went in.

  6. Candian Lung Assoc:
    Each year regular seasonal flu causes 4000-8000 deaths in Canada.

    H1N1 has caused 97 deaths this year, in Canada, as of today.
    Experts say we have hit the peak mid October.

    • Ah, no one really knows ………. the flu season goes into springtime.

    • Experts say we have hit the peak mid October.

      What experts? Do you have a reference? Because just about everything I have seen, heard, read, and learned about flu season in general, much less this season says that it is highly unusual to hit the peak flu season in October, and that the peak is usually between December and March. As for "government experts", I haven't really heard much other than to cough and sneeze into my arm, use hand sanitizer, and that the Harper government is doing a heck of a job! Heck. Of. A. Job. Stop SCARING PEOPLE!!! HECK OF A JOB!!!! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THEY ARE DOING A HECK OF A JOB ITS THE PROVINCES SCREWING THINGS UP AND THE MSM SCARING PEOPLE HECK OF A JOB HECK OF A JOB HECK OF A JOB!!!! ADSCAM!!!!

      Look, I'm not condoning anyone making political hay out of this, but right now there is a lot of concern in the general populous, and it is bordering on all out panic. The Federal government has screwed this up from the get go, and should be shouldering most (if not all) of the blame for the panic right now. For the past six months I have seen all sorts of TV ads, magazine ads, internet ads, mail outs, and a ton of radio ads telling me just how peachy keen the EAP is going, how it is so easy but important that I keep my receipts from renovations for tax credits, and how if it wasn't for Stephen Harper's economic prowess Canada would now resemble a post-apocalyptic world. But that pandemic thing? Use a little Purell and you'll be fine. It's all under control. Now let's talk about more important things, like re-opening an investigation from 4 years ago even though there has been no new information and it's not going to accomplish anything except to possibly embarrass the Liberals a bit more.

    • There is no "regular flu" Wilson. There are many flu viruses. Each one pretty much needs its own specific vaccine. Each year, health officials guess which virus is most likely to be more deadly than the others and pick that vaccine for the flu shot we all get.

      Taken all together, it is possible that all other flu viruses do cause more deaths in Canada. But it is certainly true that no single flu virus will kill as many Canadians this year than H1N1. Worse, most flu deaths are with people with underlying health weaknesses. The H1N1 is killing healty kids.. Three this past week alone in Ontario with a possible unconfirmed fourth yesterday.

      And unlike "regular flu", we didn't have to guess that: we knew it was coming. Why did the government wait months after other countries to even order the vaccine???

      • …But it is certainly true that no single flu virus will kill as many Canadians this year than H1N1.

        you're saying it doesn't make it so Ted, that is a raw assertion without supporting data.

        • Indeed. Seasonal flu annually kills way more Canadians, and we have collectively not cared much. THIS one is ready to kill a smaller number, but in the younger demographic, and look what's happened.

          So the only scandal I see is how little attention we have paid to influenza year after year after year.

  7. typical…party faithfuls getting on boards and filing the boards with their party lines.
    i am not as naive as most and now that all these comments are from party faithfuls in both camps…these boards are a joke.
    truth be told we Canadians have a right to be protected in these times.
    We have right to a government for the people that does not sell vaccine to the highest bidder.
    How many doses went to those clinics?
    this conservative government is not that government.
    this bully regime will end only when we all say enough.. FYI i ama candian voter and hold no party alligences…
    how many others can say that on here?

    • Highest bidder….please……and you try to dress up your comments as non partisan.

      These clinics deliver other forms of health care and applied along with others. Local pediatrician received their doeses of vaccine on Sunday and delivered 500 doses in a day. The big clinics were only vaccinatiing 1600 people a day. Why? The registartion requirement at the clinics, hello e health records, was causing a huge jam up in the process. Of all the workers at these clinics less than 50% are delivering shots in arms. More than half are fulfilling administartion and other overhead requirements.

      Oh and the other problem, after going through registration at the clinic the records were unfinadable and had to be re entered when you got the needle lady. To quote Lisa Raitt, I know its sexy to talk about vaccine shortages and dead children but honesty would drive one to look into where the problems are throughout.

    • You're so full of crap I can smell it through the internet. If you are buying these Liberal lines you need to splash some hot coffee in your face and wake up.

      • That seems a rather violent reaction Toby.

  8. The real issue that the current situation brings to light is that there is no capacity to deal with emergencies. In our desire to be efficient we have chosen the “Just in Time” model. That is fine as long as there are no bumps in the road such as a surge of sick people. Until we are willing to factor in and pay for emergency capacity we will be doing a “Ford Pinto” type analysis whether we admit it or not.

  9. I see the Ontario Liberals brought in Democratic speechwriter Ted Sorensen as their keynote spearker at their convention this past weekend. The federal Liberals had Howard Dean as their keynote speaker in 2006 and brought in U.S.Democratic Party operatives to show them how to fundraise at their 2008 convention. The icing on the cake was the appointment of Michael Ignatieff as their Americanized leader.

    Is it any surprise that everything they do emulates their American friends, including making references to American examples like the U.S. government's handling of Hurricane Katrina?

    This is a party so devoid of ideas and policy direction that it hailed the recent arrival of a spin-doctor pollster as an event of significant proportions. Right, a spin-doctor will make it all right for us. How do you spell delusional?

    Their latest gambit: trying to incite fear and panic in Canadians so that they can score some cheap and tawdry political points. How the mighty Liberals have fallen. And how they look such a long way from getting up off the ground.

    • Can you honestly tell me that the Conservatives have not borrowed from the pre meltdown Republican playbook? C'mon!

      While the Liberals are not bringing a great deal to the table, this does not revoke their right to question. Do you think we should sit back and surrender control to any government without question?

      • danby – if the Conservatives had Americans as their keynote speakers at their political conventions time and again as the Liberals do, they'd be pilloried for it. If the Conservatives appointed as their leader, a Canadian that had spent almost all of his adult life in the U.S. and Britain and said half of the things Michael Ignatieff is on record as saying while in those countries, they would be mercilessly pilloried by the media. Everyone knows that.

        Why is that? Because the Liberals associate with the right type of Americans, that is to say Democrats. Left-leaning media types like Wherry, and to a lesser extent Wells, like Democrats because they think the "right" thoughts and hold the "right" policies. So the Conservatives had to start their own campaign pointing out where Ignatieff was all of these years. The left-leaning media howled at this "negative" campaigning. Deux poids, deux mesures, the Conservatives are used to this double-standard by the Canadians MSM. Instead of complaining about it, they deal with it.

        As for the H1N1 "emergency debate", it's more cheap exploitive political theatre by the Liberals. Let's be honest about that.

        • I certainly agree that the Conservatives would be pilloried for consistently using American Republican keynote speakers. But the CPC does employ other strategies. SH has a penchant for appearing on FOX , not something I approve of, but as you say, "they deal with it" and that is fair enough.
          It wasn't just the left leaning media types who howled at the negative campaign, and it began a long time before MI. I was inundated with 10 percenters slamming Stephane Dion, beginning shortly after he became Liberal leader. I personally found the style offensive and it has left a very bad taste that lingers to this day. The Liberal body bag bullsh*t was also something I can't respect.
          While I can't argue that media does not assume bias, there are certainly outlets leaning in each direction – is the media really conspiring to present only a left view? I've read posts contending the opposite.
          While the H1N1 might be opportunistic, that is certainly something used by both sides. Can you really tell me that being tossed lob balls by Mike Duffy in Cambridge doesn't qualify as theatre?
          I think we all want the same thing: good government. I'm just not convinced any of the parties can offer that at this point – the toxic atmosphere is contaminating the well, and every party is serving up koolaid made with the water.

          • Jarrid – Conservatives here have gone down to the US to "learn" the republican politiking, how to attack, etc. Rob Anders in one for sure and Stockwell Day is another.

            You know – Harper could shoot your mother in the face and you'd stand by him.

  10. Why don't we hear much in the media these days about the "isotope crisis"? Chalk River is still not up and running.

    • Because most medical professionals have moved on to other alternatives that are equally valid. The failure of the MAPLE reactor was a process that occured over many years. It was a result of a technology that ultimately did not work. No quick fix is possible. No single government can be blamed for this. Too bad.

      • No single government can be blamed for this. Too bad.

        No single Liberal appointee can be blamed for this. Too bad. The last one, Linda Keen was already fired by Conservative Minister Gary 'Too Tall' Lunn.


      • Do you know this for a fact or are you pulling it out of your Japanese-polished a*se?

        • People in the nuclear regulatory area and in the health care field whose judgement I respect have told me.

          By the way, rude comments are not appreciated.

  11. All the while the Cons supporters are repeating and believing the PM talking points, I watched a journalist in London (England) talking about how organized it is over there. People get their shots by appointment via their own doctor and who better to know your health issues.

    So, keep spewing out your paranoia kiddies – you've been fooled, again.

    • What? In Canada it is the NDP and Liberal spokespersons who have been hysterical over the danger to our hallowed health care sytem if medical doctors actually offer appointments in their clinics for vaccine shots.They obviously don't agree with the English approach you describe.

    • Pal, it is up to the provinces how to distribute. The provinces decided on mass immunization of the population AWAY from doctors' offices. So if you don't like it, yell at your provincial capitals.

      But you're STILL wrong. Just imagine what every doctor's office would look like right now if THAT was the distribution system of choice. Then you can bet that the braying would be furious: "See how much evil Harper wants to just destroy medicare — he's paralyzing Canadians' access to their doctors…"

      • But they only get the vaccine that the federal government ordered. And they were very very late in making any order at all and then changed the order partway through which further delayed.

        At first, we were going to have enough by the end of October. Now they are saying by Christmas.

        • Do you have ANY evidence, any at all, that Ottawa was not relying on best available information coming from its public health people, at the time? Or that Ottawa failed to adjust its strategy as new information became available?

          It's an obvious loser scenario politically, easy for losers to exploit.

          Pandemic coming. Tell me what to do, public health people. OK, vaccine ordered, almost double what we need, that should allow for spoilage, or bad batches, or errors in distribution, and we can ship some to developing countries when we're done. Make it with adjuvant so we need less antigen per dose, that way we'll have more sooner. What — not proven completely safe for pregnant women? OK then, let's get several hundred thousand without adjuvant (*they're killing us all with this adjuvant — they're admitting themselves it's not safe*). Wow, so few people want the vaccine, that's bad news for the population if we can't get the numbers up — let's encourage people to get vaccinated as best we can. Hey, good news, vaccines available ahead of schedule, that's important because the virus is among us already. Damn, a few people have died already, let's keep up the pace everyone, and — whoah! All of a sudden everyone wants the vaccine yesterday. Now you tell me the adjuvant is safe for pregnant women after all?

          That's the capsule summary from this observer.

        • Maybe I missed it, but I do not recall any scenario that had "enough by end October." The scenario I heard was "some shipped by end-October." First shipment ended up being mid-October.

          The system actually worked as best it could under the circumstances. I am far from an apologist for public medical insurance coverage, but here the federal government took its public health and disease prevention seriously, by just about any measure I can see. And the reports have us still far ahead of any other country under comparison. I still await any evidence to the contrary.

          • No evidence to the contrary? When the world jumped and placed their orders in May and Harper only placed his order at the end of the summer? When every other country started rolling out immunization as much as 5-6 weeks before Canada? When the government, already late in making its order, changed its order partway through and causing further delays?

            As for evidence, the only evidence we have that we are "far ahead of any other country by comparison" is from the government itself. These numbers are being questioned. They don't add up. And it's not as if this particular government has ever shown itself very tied to the truth when it comes to numbers so I have no trust that they aren't just lying to us outright.

          • Yes. Evidence please. Canada has a better vaccine — killed, with adjuvant — than the US live-virus nasal one. Non-government reports have said Canada has received more per capita than has the USA, and everyone can get the vaccine. Any health-type person in the media has said the adjuvant killed-virus type was the winner choice.

        • And, just for interest's sake: Would you be the same Ted as:
          "H1N1 has mercury in it which is harmful to you and it's used as rats poison." from:

          • Couldn't find the comment you linked to but that is definitely not me. I think everyone should get this shot.

  12. Yup, things going fine so far – isotopes are sexy, listeriosis deaths are a real hoot and now this.

  13. The Canadian pandemic plan; which resulted after the SARS scare, will have to be revamped after H1N1 has passed. I do sympathize with all governments, this is a real time pandemic and the Chretien era plan just hasn't cut it.

    • That's not actually true because Harper had demolished some of it.

      • For crying out loud, people! Get off your frickin' partisan asses, would you? Both of you? ALL OF YOU?

        Our best public health minds are working their damnedest, using the best information they have, information that is changing all the time, to protect as many Canadians as possible.

        If you believe a bureaucrat is TRYING to make Canadians sick, speak up. No, let me rephrase, the vaccine freakazoids have had their malignant platform long enough. If you have EVIDENCE that bureaucrats are trying to make Canadians sick, speak up. If you have EVIDENCE that an elected official rejected the best advice possible, speak up.

        Blaming Chretien (for crying out loud) is at present as insane as blaming Harper.

  14. Is that the same Michael Ignatieff who wanted an election despite the fact that the H1N1 pandemic was on its way?

    Do we need any further evidence of what's motivating Michael Ignatieff here? It's not the health of Canadians he's worried about, it's the health of the Liberal Party. The Liberals are indeed in woefully sick state, but the physical health of Canadians should rightfully come ahead of the polical health of the Liberals.

    • That is no different than the same SH, who called an election last fall, ahead of the economic firestorm.
      Both are acts of political cunning, not ones rooted in the best public interest.

    • Are we to punish someone for something they didn't do?? I'm confused. If you don't want an election Jarrid than why oh why do you condemn Michael Ignatieff for reaching the same conclusion?

  15. The arguments about jurisdiction get in the way of good decision making. It's obvious that vaccine has to be delivered at the local level. But the pandemic plan and communication should be at the federal level. Our communciation systems haven't been local for years … every day I hear conflicting information from different jurisdictions. It should be one plan that is communicated consistently across Canada. The feds should have provided the leadership for that communication.

    Maybe they could have freed up some of the communications staff from the PMO, they seem to be good at controlling the message (couldn't resist).

    • Have you noticed that the Bloc has been relatively quiet? They understand that health care delivery is a provincial responsibility. You won't hear the Bloc calling on the federal governemnt to play a larger role.

  16. Let us not forget that Harper cut the public health budget too. From a preparedness contingency fund of $400 million down to an annual budget of $80 million that does accumulate but disappears if not used.

    • proof please, more assertions with our fact.

  17. I don't think this debate solved anything. It just gave the opposition some free time to hit at the Government from all sides on a topic that is mostly a Provincial responsibility. The Federal Government is supposed to make sure there's enough vaccine – our little country has more doses available to it than any other country in the world, so that argument is moot. Also, I used to work in a pharmaceutical company – it takes time to get product from the planning to the clinical testing, to the production, to the delivery stage…
    Please see more commentary here.

    • It was an important debate to have. Regardless of whether it accomplished anything other than clearing the air. Parents like myself across the country are staring to panic. Right or wrong, it is important that we see our elected representatives doing something. An evening debate was a great way for politicians of all stripes to show that they were taking the matter seriously.

  18. Jarrid and his buddies should wear masks – all that hot air could be dangerous – even though it is empty of any sense or reason!

    Planning for and actual delivery of vaccines CAN be done properly. Here is high praise for Community Health Centres and how they deliver public health services – from a well respected health analyst – both as a general model – AND as a special example here in northern Ontario of doing it right. I am fortunate to be working with some of these community health centres, and am always impressed with their diligence and dedication.
    sorry Jarrid – your PMO talking points don't cut it!

  19. It really is sad that politicians on all side would rather play the blame game than try and come together and fix the problems. Obviously there is still confusion out there, people aren't sure whether they should be getting the shot now (depending on their demographic profile) or wait to later. People aren't sure whether they should get the adjuvant vaccine, or the non-adjuvant one, and people aren't sure whether there are even enough doses of the vaccine currently in their district. Is this the fault of the feds? the provinces? Glaxo Smith Kline? Who gives a tinkers damn right now? Obviosuly these questions should all be addressed in the spring, once the flu season is over, but for now the focus on all sides should be solving the communication and readiness issues that exist TODAY. I wouldn't mind the partisan antics from all sides as much if they were at least happening in addition to getting a more cohesive plan in place to help Canadians get the H1N1 vaccine, but they're not, it's happening in lieu of that. Another outlet that deserves to shoulder some of the blame is the media, who seems more intent on covering this aspect of it and the politics behind than educating Canadians on H1N1, and what they need to do. The top of the list is the Globe and Mail, who ran a front page story on Saturday asking Canadian celebs whether they'd be getting the vaccine or not. Want to interview doctors and medical experts about who's most at risk and who should get the vaccine first? Fill your boots. But at least make the debate somewhat substantive rather than worrying about what some MPs are yelling at each other. Frankly, it's been a thoroughly embarassing performance from all involved.

  20. Nope. The boy died, unfortunately. The boy was also + for H1N1. The family declined an autopsy. The murmurs of several MDs on various media have been of skepticism that this boy died OF H1N1, as opposed to WITH it.

    • I hadn't heard the family declined an autopsy. I tend to think the poor boy had another condition as well as H1N1. A sad sad time for the family, but perhaps it would have been a public service to have allowed an autopsy.

      I do not, however, blame them in any way; they are dealing with the ultimate heart ache and my best thoughts go out to them.

      • Just to clarify my remarks: In no way am I blaming the family for declining the autopsy. And their public appeals for everyone to get vaccinated ASAP were very well-founded, and a selfless act in the face of unspeakable tragedy. But it is unfortunate that complete info will be unavailable.

        Although I am not certain that the autopsy results would be required to be in the public domain anyways.

    • They DECLINED?! That is very unfortunate.

      • It is really only unfortunate for those who want to make political hay out of this tragic death.

        We know already this flu is going to cause death, especially in those with immune system disorders. Regardless of whether this one child died with it, or from it, the response of the government should be the same- and that is to provide the best possible protection.

        • That's more or less what I meant. But there's been a lot of popular fear that resulted from the publicity of this case, beyond the nonsense going on in Ottawa. Given that, a clear and complete explanation would have been helpful.

          However, I used the word 'unfortunate' because I fully respect the rights of the family to refuse an autopsy.

  21. What a load of crap. Little bit one sided here? We've got all the vaccine we need. What the hell is the problem?

    • No, we don't all got the vaccine we need. Millions of people aren't eligible to get the vaccine – at least not yet – and are being turned away at clinics. The provinces are receiving about one-quarter the promised vaccines this week. The WHO declared swine flu an issue more than six months ago, and it took this long to get the procurement process and the production of the vaccine going. We sat and waited to see what impact it would have on the southern hemisphere.

      There was a serious lack of emergency preparedness, and cooperation between all three levels of government. People who were most vulnerable have been forced to wait in lineups of seven hours or more, in cold weather.

      In a situation such as this, when the ball gets dropped, it's not just one person's or organization's fault – everyone on the chain of command needs to answer for their failure to adequately prepare for this pandemic. There is no tolerance for passing the buck.

  22. Continued:
    Do you understand why I'm posting this? I feel cut off from any real medical professionals and forced to get health information from the media — which is whipping us into a frenzy — and partisan politicians — not my usual source for solid health information.

    Families are lining up in the pouring rain for hours to avoid the flu. That seems counter-productive to me.

    Meanwhile, Don Martin asks where all the vaccines have gone already, and I can tell you factually that the regional health authority here (Regina) has given it to ALL employees, not just front line health care workers, or indeed, even health care workers.

    So, do you think this is being mismanaged? I do!

    Thanks to all of you who sent kind messages to get well yesterday. Really nice of you.

    • I hope you're feeling better today, MJ. From my understanding (take it or leave it):

      Yes, if you are otherwise well, STAY AWAY from clinics or emergency rooms. If you are unwell (difficulty breathing, for e.g.), GET THERE immediately.

      Yes, if you are flu-like, you probably have H1N1. So stay away from people and don't bother getting tested. BUT, since you will therefore never know for sure, when you recover and when it's available it would still be wise to consider getting the vaccine.

      • Thanks!

        If anyone out there is scientifically inclined, I suggest you develop a simple, inexpensive test that people can buy and use to see if they have or had H1N1 — like a pregnancy test. I'd be willing to prick my finger for blood, or pee on a stick, if necessary.

        Heck, I do it just for fun all the time…

        • Well, those things sure beat the nasal torture I endured earlier when I got sinus-scraped: Positive for H1N1. Luckily I feel better already. But wear a mask when you read my comments, and wash your hands after leaving your terminal.

          • Yikes! I may be getting off very easily, so far anyway. Glad you're better — what do you find the worst symtom? For me, it's an unrelenting headache and feeling very tired — also stuffed up and easily winded , but no fever to speak of or stomach upset.

            Sinus-scraped is a terrific word. Shudder-inducing but almost-omatopoeiac.

    • Ya, and the privileged ones in Toronto getting shots first – that private clinic is own by fundraiser for Hudak (right wing Con party opposition leader).

    • You feel 'cut off from any real medical professionals'. If you were flu-ish (not horribly sick, just annoyingly so) at any other time (not in the middle of an H1N1 pandemic) would you have gone to see a doctor? Risked spreading seasonal flu to others? Or like most of us, just suffered alone and in silence?

      The vaccine is being tested on Canadians to understand its effectiveness/safety — a check to see if antibodies are present. Perhaps the answer is a blood test when you are feeling better. The official word seems to be that if you are not sure, get the vaccine anyway.

      My sympathies — hope you feel better soon.

      • Thanks — and no I hardly ever go to doctors. Something has to hurt really badly, or be falling off altogether.

        Last time I had the flu, and that's more than a couple of years ago, I was soooo sick. Way sicker than this. Knock wood and all.

        Can't say I ever suffer in silence. Not the strong silent type.

  23. Okay, here's the thing.

    I told some of you yesterday that I am housebound with some kind of flu — and the G&M advises that anyone with flu symptoms right now indeed has H1N1.

    I shouldn't go to a doctor to find out what I have because then I will be spreading the virus. I have not had access to a vaccine since I am not on the priority list.

    I don't really know if I have H1N1, but since the media information tells me I must have it now, and therefore will have an immunity to it, so I am not likely to get a vaccine if I'm already immune.

    I'm not horribly sick, just annoyingly so.

  24. Dear Santy Claus
    I want a robotic minister of health for christmas.
    Thanks, Baz

  25. Patients ailing with the flu, who need to speak to their Ontario doctors, can now pick up the telephone, thanks to a ministerial order. If the chat is less than 10 minutes long, physicians will be paid $11. But if patients are particularly loquacious, talking 10 minutes or more, their doctors will be enriched by $27.55.


  26. Ignatieff's attack on the govt over the H1N1 vaccine is nothing but cheap and sleazy. The Liberals are ignoring the truth and launching into another dishonest tirade.

    Unfortunately for them, intelligent Canadians can find access to the truth which reveals that the govt has acted responsibly.

    The delay in vaccine delivery is related to production delays, not order delays. Producers of the vaccine have discovered that the H1N1 vaccine doesn't replicate in chicken eggs as rapidly as the seasonal flu vaccine does. By now they have taken measures to rectify the problem, and all Canadians who wish to be vaccinated will soon be.

    the Liberals are trying to cash in on the public's panic and score political points off the unfortunate death of a teenage hockey player.

    It is despicable strategy not unexpected when you have Donolo and Kinsella advising Ignatieff.

  27. um, like, isn't health care the responsibility of the provinces?

    • What a childish and ignorant comment. Read and interpret the Constitution, go to law school and figure out that it's a shared jurisdiction.

  28. While it may be expedient to rant on about the political coulda/shouldas there is supposedly a professional staff at Health Canada and at the provincial level as well. Why do we hear no cries for the heads of the PROFESSIONAL managers who have utterly failed here?

    DM, ADM and DG heads should be rolling. It is after all their responsibility to advise and give unbiased counsel to the elected ones to avoid debacles like this.

    Elected leaders come and go and have many fish to fry. Professional bureaucrats are supposed to have contingency plans for events (or non-events) like this. Are they corrupt or incompetant? Either way heads should be rolling…and not at the polls.

    • Does the term "best available evidence" mean ANYTHING anymore?

    • I ask all to set aside their political axes for a moment. What's gone wrong? Thousands of terrified citizens standing in long lines pleading for a fix to something they have been "sold" through a relentless drum beat of doom for months. If the public health agencies can generate the panic they sure as hell better be ready to supply the fix.

      Personally I have always thought this whole pandemic was a pile of BS. Even if it is a crock there should be contigencies in place to have vaccination centers and notification lists and schedules etc. No one is paying me $150K per year to figure this out and design a plan. We do , however, pay senior public health bureaucrats for exactly this purpose and they report to DGs, ADMs and DMs who ought to have developed some political sense by virtue of the fact they have risen to the posts they occupy.

      The bureaucrats in Canada and their brethern at WHO, CDC etc. are not many degrees of seperation removed from each other. They read the same journals, study at the same schools and attend the same meetings. They have noticed that big fear makes big budget. Go figure.

      • I don't think you'd find I have a reputation as a Harper booster, to put it mildly. No political axe here, I promise you.

        Agreed that public health has a bad habit of overstating things, but I think Canada has generally struck the right balance. Remember, polling a few months ago showed that only a third or so were planning to get vaccinated. And most everyone endorsed attempts to stress the serious nature of this to the public, particularly in the face of such apathy.

        Also, the sudden panic probably had very little to do with health officials, and an awful lot to do with the death of the 13 year old boy (plus a few others). In terms of thousands in line-ups, it's hard to blame the selfish/panicked mob mentality (by selfish, I mean people ignoring pleas for the certain segments to get it first) on anybody but the citizens themselves.

        How would you have handled things differently, from April until now?

        • I presume you have your cheque book ready :). First, the pandemic response plan was supposed to have been worked on since SARS. I'd be willing to bet good money that tens to hundreds of million have been invested from coast to coast.

          Second I would have encouraged the non-immune compromised to invest in Vitamin D3 and Zinc supplements.

          Third I would have used the years since SARS to establish a non-stupid gun registry type data base of those most at risk.

          For the rest of the hoi poloi I would have used the same data as Elections Canada as augmented by Stats Canada, augmented by Rev Can to generate mailing lists to notify folks when and where they go to get their shots based on a distribution schedule I'm sure Fed ex would be happy to provide.

          Check out the powers the Minister has in Sec. 30.1 of the existing FDA. This could happen. Someone "chose" for it not to happen.

  29. What has gone so very wrong such that heads should roll?

  30. While the advice by senior Health Canada officals may not have been perfect in all circumstances, the evidence suggests that they have made a lot of good recommendations over a long period in real time that has placed Canada in good position. This warrants mass firings?

  31. This debate is not simply about an epidemic, it's about the failure of a public health care system that is so tied down by red-tape that it is systematically impossible to react quickly to the rapidly changing situation on the ground. Does anybody find it surprising that private clinics had vaccine once the provinces had run out?

    If Michael Ignatieff had even one honest bone in his body, he would be debating the state of Canada's healthcare, not the politics of the situation. But he hasn't been honest with Canadians since the day he came back here.

    In 2005 NYT article Iggy wrote "The most terrible price of Katrina – everyone can see this – was not the destruction of lives and property, terrible though this was. The worst of it was the damage done to the ties that bind Americans together". As any Liberal in Canada will tell you, our "free" healthcare is what holds our country together. For Iggy, the deaths that result from H1N1 are secondary to Canadians perception of our healthcare system, and to him, it's the perception of that system that matters above all.

    • I'm not sure I interpret The worst of it was the damage done to the ties that bind Americans together the same way you do. In reality, the great tragedy was indeed the loss of life. But the blow to the self esteem that made Americans view themselves as world leaders took a serious plunge when they realized that they could not save their own, even on American soil. This bruising of the collective American ego will have citizens wondering what kind of support they'll receive if something big happens to them.

  32. My memory had it almost right. I found this with a little googling:
    A nurse wildly overestimates and orders 100. Order only partially filled. Brou-ha-ha squared.
    Ah, those cons, always blaming someone else…

  33. It's all well and fine to enjoy our nanny state mentality and blame everything on someone else especially the gov'ts, health care workers, clinics bla bla bla bla bla – however – take a breath stand back and look at what we are doing if needs be we are trying to immunize 38 million people .. yikes … knowing people there is no way any nation outside of a unitary state could ever make such a thing be smooth and without problems. having said that I think everyone should take dose of reality step back and withold the knee jerk panic reactions of blaming something on someone for political gains and then when all is said and done –

  34. My question is just when did Ignatieff settle on this apparent strategy to create a panic, ensuring demand for the vaccine outstrips supply in the early days, then blame the Government for not delivering 50 million doses of vaccine in July? And why is Donolo going along with it?

  35. ''a Conservative backbencher still dutifully raising the same tangential point he was pursuing four hours ago, Niki Ashton still carrying the NDP cause with youthful idealism and Liberal Larry Bagnell looking suitably dishevelled.''

    absolutely dead on, couldn't have said it better